The Ministry of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth will be hosting a number of meetings early in 2011 with key sports stakeholders.

This disclosure came from Minister with responsibility for that portfolio, Stephen Lashley, last Friday night as he addressed the Barbados Olympic Association’s annual Christmas Dinner and Awards Ceremony at Hilton Barbados.

Mr. Lashley told the gathering which included athletes, their families and sports administrators: "I am urging all our stakeholders of sports to be proactive in their thinking and strategise towards optimising the use of our limited resources. In this regard, the Ministry of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth will be conducting a number of collaborative sessions with key stakeholders of sports in Barbados early in the New Year, commencing on January 10 at Kensington Oval with the leaders of all National Sports Federations and Associations."

The Minister reiterated Government’s commitment to the athletes’ development and to ensuring that their chances of excelling were comparable to those of their counterparts on the world stage.

"I am cognisant of the challenges currently faced by some of our athletes as it pertains to getting time off from work to practice and to represent Barbados in the field of sports. Conversely, I am also conscious of the balance to be struck by the employer in facilitating, particularly, our national athletes," he said.

According to him, there was a need to establish standards of excellence in sports, ranging from ensuring that the associations and federations operate within defined guidelines, to having internationally accepted standards of attainment for coaches who wish to take responsibility for the training of national athletes.

In addition, Mr. Lashley proffered the view that more persons should pursue careers in sports and he listed options such as sports psychologists, managers, trainers and physical therapists.

Therefore, he stated, these issues were commanding the attention of his Ministry, which was in the process of developing a Sports Development Act that would speak to an enabling environment for athletes, associations, federations, trainers, managers, other professionals and employers who have national athletes on their staff.

But, in the interim, the Minister encouraged the sports people to ensure the existence of sound relations with their employers, since it could be conducive to their success.?? "I also urge the employers to capitalise on having champions and potential champions in your places of employment and pursue arrangements, where the benefits to be derived will redound to the benefit of your employees, your businesses and our nation," he stressed.

The Sports Minister disclosed that his Ministry had some tasks to undertake, including replacing the track at the National Stadium and the provision of a multi-discipline indoor sporting facility. "We recognise that an adequate infrastructure is necessary for the advancement of our sports and your development" Mr. Lashley said.

??He stressed, however, that this work would be carried out once funding was available.

High jumper Akela Jones and cyclist Darren Matthews were chosen as the top junior female and male, respectively, while squash player Karen Meakins and swimmer Bradley Ally were selected for the senior female and male titles.????

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